DENVER – Four years after Democratic Party leaders promised a skeptical public that passage of Obamacare wouldn’t interfere with their existing health care coverage, a very different reality is taking shape — as thousands of Coloradans receive notices from their insurance providers that they will not be able to extend their current health care plans.
“Changes from health care reform (also called the Affordable Care Act) continue to take effect in 2014,” a September 10 letter from Anthem BlueCross BlueShield to one policyholder begins. “To meet the requirements of the new laws, your current plan can no longer be continued.”
“We would like to notify you that your current policy will be discontinued or not renewed…on December 31, 2013, because Humana will no longer offer your current health plan in the State of Colorado,” read a similar letter sent by that company to many of its policyholders earlier this month.
The “drop letters” stand in stark contrast to the assurances provided by President Obama during the height of the health care battle.
“For those who have insurance now, nothing will change under the Obama plan — except that you will pay less,” read a 2008 Obama campaign “white paper” — a pledge reiterated by the President just a few months later during the push to gain public support for the controversial plan.
“We will keep this promise to the American people,” said Obama in 2009. “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away.”
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat and Obamacare supporter, voiced similar sentiments at the time.
“[I]f you have coverage and you like it, you can keep it. If you have your doctor, and you like him or her, you should be able to keep them, as well,” Bennet said in a 2009 floor speech. “We will not take that choice away from you.”
Colorado’s other Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall, who faces re-election in 2014, echoed the same talking point during a 2009 interview.
“If you have an insurance policy you like, doctor or medical facility that provides medical services to you, you’ll be able to keep that doctor or that insurance policy,” said Udall.
But the “drop letters” sent out by companies like Anthem and Humana as implementation of the president’s health care law gets underway seem to run counter to those commitments – as many Coloradans are pushed out of their current insurance plans and into more expensive, Obamacare-approved plans they may not need or want.
One of those Coloradans was U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma.
“Last month, my wife, Jaime, and I received notice that our health care plan would be discontinued Dec. 31,” Gardner wrote in a recent op-ed. “To comply with the myriad new regulations, requirements and mandates of the president’s health care law, my family must find a new health care plan.”
Gardner noted that his monthly premium will more than double as a result of the new policies – “from roughly $650 a month to $1,480 per month.”
“Choosing a health care plan is a difficult and time-consuming process,” Gardner added. “Those who have been happy with their current health care plans are now being forced to find new plans and must navigate the maze of new regulations in doing so.”
Gardner isn’t alone. Thousands of notices like the one his family received have gone out in Colorado, according to a Humana spokesperson.
“Last month, Humana sent letters to approximately 8,800 individually-insured policy holders in Colorado whose plans are not considered ‘grandfathered’ under the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” Humana’s Western Region Spokesperson Marina Renneke told TCO in an e-mail. “The letters outlined two Humana plan options for 2014 and encouraged recipients to learn more about the health care reform law.”
“Humana is currently working with the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) to ensure that our communications are as clear and consumer friendly as possible.” Renneke added. “With the DOI’s approval, we plan to send revised letters to the same group of members to further clarify their options.”
But recent studies suggest that those options may be more expensive.
“For the vast majority of Americans, premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits,” read a recent analysis conducted by National Journal.
According to a recent report in The Hill newspaper outlining the findings of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, young and healthy Coloradans will see a considerable spike in health care costs as a result of Obamacare.
The “drop letters” will likely intensify an already tense political tug-of-war over funding for the controversial health care law, which remains a key sticking point in budget negotiations between President Obama and lawmakers.
Anthem BlueCross BlueShield did not respond to requests for comment.